Student Spotlight: Omar Gomez, CHER Graduate Student Research Assistant
Hometown: Flagstaff, AZ
What is your program of study? Master of Public Health –Health promotion
When will you graduate? Spring 2020
Why are you interested your program? My interest in the MPH program is due to its interdisciplinary approach and is a stepping stone toward my ultimate goal of working with underserved communities both as a researcher and, eventually, an MD. My experience as both an immigrant and an indigenous person greatly inspires me to solve inequalities in these communities.
For Omar Gomez, becoming a physician has been his dream since he started college. He first majored in forensics at Coconino Community College, then switched his major after deciding that anthropology would better assist him with his focus on people.
“I wanted to learn the right questions to ask people and to be able to translate their concerns from one group to another group,” Gomez said.
Gomez said he chose anthropology after reading a publication by physician anthropologist Paul Farmer from Partners in Health who focused on working with AIDS and drug resistant tuberculosis in developing countries.
“They investigate systems that are operating in the community and are into finding creative ways to deliver healthcare,” Gomez said of Partners in Health.
Now, Gomez is almost finished with his Masters in Public Health at NAU and is working on his final project with Samantha Sabo, associate professor in NAU’s Department of Health Sciences and CHER, where he is researching stress levels of Flagstaff housekeepers and how they are interpreting stress.
“My goal is to develop an intervention to cope with stressors from home,” he said. “Time, transportation and money are the biggest obstacles to relieving their chronic pain and stress. My project will offer some solutions to that.”
Gomez said the project is mainly focused on Hispanic and immigrant workers.
“It was a natural fit,” Gomez said of his project. “I am very much interested in how chronic disease and chronic pain are interpreted across immigrant families. One of my goals is to go into medical school and work with immigrant families, especially those with no insurance or who are undocumented.”
Sabo said that she had enjoyed working with Gomez, and she appreciates his hard work, his compassion for others and his collaborative spirit.
“Omar is the embodiment of an emerging public health leader who will draw from multiple modalities to inform culturally relevant and rights-based approaches to health promotion and disease prevention among some of our nation’s most marginalized populations,” Sabo said. “Moreover, his lived experience and bicultural world views will contribute to new ways of understanding and engaging immigrant Latinx communities in the art and science of public health medicine. I am so proud to have had the opportunity to work with Omar during his graduate studies in public health program and cannot wait to see what he does next!”
Gomez said he hopes to graduate and take the MCAT in spring and apply to medical school. He said his parents continue to encourage and support him and to champion him along his path.
“They have always inspired me to strive for something more than I think I can achieve,” he said.